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Sinking the Ship of State

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Der Untergang der Titanic

Julia Ioffe’s article on her interviews with career State Department employees manages to be heartbreaking, appalling, and frightening at the same time.

You should read the whole thing, but here are three choice excerpts.

First, the evisceration of the professional bureaucracy in favor of barely competent loyalists and family members:

A lot of this, the employee said, is because there is now a “much smaller decision circle.” And many State staffers are surprised to find themselves on the outside. “They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”

Second, the complete collapse of the Office of Policy Planning:

The Office of Policy Planning, created by George Kennan after World War II, is now filled not just with Ph.D.s, as it once was, but with fresh college graduates and a malpractice attorney from New Jersey whose sole foreign-policy credential seems to be that she was born in Hungary. Tillerson’s chief of staff is not his own, but is, according to the Washington Post, a Trump transition alum named Margaret Peterlin. “Tillerson is surrounded by a bunch of rather mysterious Trumpistas,” said the senior State official who recently left. “How the hell is he supposed to do his job when even his right hand is not his own person?” One State Department employee told me that Peterlin has instructed staff that all communications with Tillerson have to go through her, and even scolded someone for answering a question Tillerson asked directly, in a meeting.

Third, a quotation that sums up the human-capital side of Trump’s march to geopolitical suicide:

“This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic.”

Don’t get sucked into debates about whether Trump’s failure to bite a bat in half at last night’s speech bodes well for the Republic. When you look past the shiny object, it’s all terrible.

Image.

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